Make NRI Sabha powerful, govt urged

Deepkamal Kaur

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 14

Even as the state government has announced the elections for the NRI Sabha chief on March 7, NRIs in the region are not much enthused as they are demanding that it was more important to impart some strength and decision-making power to the body than just holding elections in the name.

US-based NRI Manjit S Dasuya said: “The NRI Sabha is completely governed by the state. It is a toothless body. In the past, it has in no way helped in safeguarding the interests of the NRI community. Presidents are elected as a mere formality and they are used by politicians and bureaucrats as puppets. The elections are being organised as the government is eyeing NRI support for 2022 elections. The sabha as a whole needs a complete uplift, has to build the confidence of NRIs for various schemes and property investments or else more NRIs will continue to sell off all their properties and leave for foreign lands for good.”

He rued that most past presidents acted as agents between the NRIs and officials and used the position to earn quick bucks from the gullible NRIs.

A former member of the NRI Commission, Kamaljit Hayre, said: “There is no point in holding elections till the time we get the entire membership list of sabha scrutinised. Several members are those who have worked in Gulf countries about 30 years ago. It makes no sense retaining them in the sabha.”

He said: “I have worked with the NRI Commission from 2016-18. Both the NRI Commission as well as the NRI Sabha can only recommend cases to the officials concerned in the bureaucracy or the police and are themselves incapable of issuing any summons or making any decision. Till the time some power is attached to the position, it makes no sense to run the sabha.”

A former president, Pritam S Narangpuri, said: “Fast-track courts and the NRI police station are in the name only. Nothing is fast track in reality and all marriage and property disputes linger on endlessly. Given a chance again on the post, I will set up a single-window system and devote at least eight hours in the office.”

Rahul Bhandari, Secretary, Department of NRI Affairs, Punjab, confirmed having fixed March 7 as the date for elections.

“We wanted to keep a December date but officials remained busy with the 550th Gurpurb of Guru Nanak Dev,” he said.

Regarding increasing disenchantment among the NRIs, he said: “We are working on to rebuild the confidence in various ways. Holding the NRI Sabha elections is one way. The ‘Connect to your roots’ programme of sponsoring 10-day tour of NRIs’ children to Punjab is another event. We have appointed 18 honorary coordinators in various countries for motivating Punjab-origin families to send their children for the programme. Nearly 45 children have already toured the state in three such batches of 15 children each.”

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